ONE I. Ideological Roots - Antecedents & Context

1. Introduction. Dynamics of Prejudice - Human Nature & Behavior


What do I know about the Holocaust? What do I want to know? Why do we study it?


This course attempts to deal with the Holocaust - Shoah, & the Nazi assault on Humanity. This course will cover the ideas and events leading up to the Holocaust Era (1933-1945), as well as its legacy.

To explore the causes of the Nazi assault on humanity and violations of human rights of the Jews and the undesirable “others” during the Holocaust era, 1933-1945:

Explore the ideologies, processes and the events which culminated in genocide, -from isolation to the "Final Solution," and the reactions to the Holocaust, exploring the inter-relationships between the perpetrators, the victims, and the bystanders. In the view of many commentators, it was the interaction of these very elements -the implacable cruelty & irrationality of the Nazi perpetrator, the overwhelming passivity & compliance of the Jewish victim, and the inaction and indifference of much of the rest of the world- that made possible this unthinkable episode in human history.

At the conclusion of this course students will be able to discuss how a society get to this point - Assess the ideological, social, political, economic and cultural developments that helped create a climate in which the Holocaust could occur, and demonstrate an understanding and knowledge of the conditions and circumstances that led to the Holocaust.

The Course

We will seek to investigate and understand the origins/causes, progression/development, and legacies of the Nazi onslaught against the Jews & against the undesirables ‘others.’ The meaning, impact, and aftermath of the Holocaust will be explored through history, with emphasis on equal dignity, tolerance, diversity, and human understanding.

This course attempts to deal with the history of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and the ‘Others,’ and the historical processes which culminated in a plan to murder all the Jews living in a territory either directly controlled by Germany or within the German sphere of influence.

In our discussions, we will trace the history of the Jewish Question, and the origins of the Final Solution -Nazi hostility to the Jews, in the political and ideological traditions of German nationalism. In order to understand why the Jews were singled out by the Nazis and the collaborators, and the silence of the bystanders, we will study ancient, medieval and early modern conceptions of Jews and then relate them to social constructions of the ‘Jew’ in so-called modern forms of political discourse.

We will examine, Jewish-Gentile relations & historical consciousness, history of the Jewish Question, origins of the ‘Final Solution,’ the Nazi rise to power, and explore Nazi racial policy toward the Jews in the context of anti-Jewish ideology, bureaucratic structures, and the varying conditions of occupation & domination under the Third Reich.

It is hoped that by the end of the first part of the course, you should have a better sense of the context in which the Holocaust must be understood.

In the 2nd half of the course we will examine the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish Question, the nazi assault on the ‘others,’ & the extermination process that followed: Hitler’s war strategy; Ghettoization; Einsatzgruppen; concentration camps; & the technologies of mass death. We will study Jehova’s Witnesses’ resistance, and the ordeals of the Jewish communities and their struggle to react against Nazi persecution. Our exploration will consider the perpetrators & collaborators, the involvement of the SS, the role of the Judenrate, the Jewish resistance movement, the bystanders, & rescue efforts.

Through lectures, reading, discussion, and film screenings, we will explore such issues as the roots of modern antisemitism and its role in the rise of the Nazi regime; the rise of the Nazi Party (1918-1933); the origins & development of the ‘Final Solution’ - Nazification (1933-1939); resistance of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; the ghettos (1939-41), and the camps (1941-42); the behavior of perpetrators, victims, bystanders, & resisters (1942-44); rescue and liberation (1944-45); and the aftermath (1945-1999)

Through study of works by survivor-memoirists, we will encounter the lived experience of individuals who survived the concentration camp world.

Terminology. Definitions. What Was the Holocaust?- Scope

“The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. "Holocaust" is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." ... close to two out of every three European Jews had been killed as part of the ‘Final Solution’. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were "life unworthy of life." During the era of the Holocaust, the Nazis also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the handicapped, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.

... Although Jews were the primary victims of Nazi racism, other victims included tens of thousands of Roma (Gypsies). At least 200,000 mentally or physically disabled people were murdered in the Euthanasia Program. As Nazi tyranny spread across Europe, the Nazis persecuted and murdered millions of other people. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease, neglect, or maltreatment. The Germans targeted the non-Jewish Polish intelligentsia for killing, and deported millions of Polish and Soviet citizens for forced labor in Germany or in occupied Poland. From the earliest years of the Nazi regime, homosexuals and others deemed to be behaving in a socially unacceptable way were persecuted. Thousands of political dissidents (including Communists, Socialists, and trade unionists) and religious dissidents (such as Jehovah's Witnesses) were also targeted. Many of these individuals died as a result of incarceration and maltreatment.”1

“The Holocaust was the murder of approximately six million Jews -men, women, & children-, by the Nazis & their collaborators (1st by Einsatzgruppen killing squads & later by gassing in the death camps). Between the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 & the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Nazi Germany and its accomplices strove to murder every Jew under their domination. The Jews were not the only victims of Hitler’s regime -other individuals and groups were persecuted and murdered during this period,- but they were the only group that the Nazis sought to destroy entirely. ... the Nazis sought to murder every Jew everywhere2

“The term ‘Holocaust’ is generally associated with the intentions of the Germans and their collaborators to rid the earth of its Jewish population ... the Nazis animus toward the Jews derived from racial ideology.”3

‘Attempt to exterminate Jewish people; execution‘final solution of ‘Jewish question’ greatest tragedy in Jewish history.’

Because Nazi discrimination against the Jews began with Hitler's accession to power in January 1933, many historians consider this the start of the Holocaust Era (1933-1945).

The Holocaust took place across more than 20 countries which during World War II were in the grip of Nazi Germany.”

Scale of H.
4 yrs; chilling cruelty efficiency of mass murders by officials of established authority; unlimited power of 20th century dictatorship unleashed; total commitment to task; considerable org skill required; doctors, lawyers tool of perversion

By the end of the Second World War, in 1945, the Nazi regime -the National Socialist regime of Germany- and its accomplices had physically annihilated about 11.5 millions people: six million Jews, and 5.5 million Gentiles (non-Jews), undesirable ‘others’ - mentally ill, disabled, political opponents, homosexuals, Slavs, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘Blacks,’ and other ‘undesirables.’ At the center of Nazi genocide stood the Shoan, the almost complete destruction of the European Jewish communities & the attempt to kill every Jew.
Theme: evil by individuals, org. govts. H. landmark man’s faculty for evil.

What does Webster's Dictionary define the Holocaust as
ho·lo·caust \'hO-l&-"kost, 'hä- also -"kästor'ho-l&-kost\ noun
1 : a sacrifice consumed by fire,
2 : a thorough destruction especially by fire. (i.e. a nuclear holocaust)
3 a often cap. : the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during WW II - usually used with the; b:mass slaughter of people; especially genocide

*Genocide. genos -people, kind; cide -murder: systematic planned killing entire group -national racial political ethnic ‘different other’ mass killing

The word holo is Greek for "whole". The word caust came from caustos meaning "burned". Originally being a religious rite meaning to be completely consumed by fire. Currently the word's meaning is being referred to wide spread human disaster.

Holocaust, a Hebrew word, olah, meaning burnt offering.” In the Septuagint version (translated Hebrew Bible into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy II, 3rd century B.C.E.), the word, olah, is consistently translated by the Greek word, holokauston, “an offering consumed by fire.” (Baustin) the destruction of life by fire.

“The term Holocaust”, widely used only since the 1960s, ... serves now to separate this particular massacre (of the Jews) from other historical instances of genocide. Holokaustos ... comes from the 3rd century B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament, signifying ‘the burnt sacrificial offering dedicated exclusively to God.’ As such, the designation of the massacre of ... Jews connoted an event of theological significance ... .”4

*2 terms: Holocaust or Shoah. “ ‘Holocaust’
is a word of Greek origin meaning ‘sacrifice by fire’ - "massive destruction by fire, burnt offering;5 “higly evocative term carries with it the connotation of sacrifice, God purpose; word used secular scholars, intellectuals, media, politicians, laymen, survivors. Some use the more neutral Hebrew termShoah,’ meaning great disaster, and applied also to such natural catastrophes as floods and earthquakes (in Israel, as well as among some non-Israeli scholars and artists; most recently in France and in Germany). ... The term ‘Shoah’ is an accurate description of the genocide of the Jews from a Jewish perspective, since it evokes the fact that this was indeed a disaster fo the Jewish people. It is free of religious connotations, and yet is not as detached as the French and German terms.

The French have until recently, preferred the more precise term ‘genocide,’ which is exactly, though not completely, whtat the vent was about. Since Claude Lanzmann’s film entitled Shoah, French intellectuals have tended to use that Hebrew-language term. Germans use troubling term ‘Judenvernichtung,’ same term which Nazis used and because ‘destruction of the Jews’ evokes a scientific, methodical, detached, clinical operation (effect of creating detachment, both personal and moral; has a bureaucratic ring, administrative dimension, militry neatness; hence it also appears neutral); whereas alternative term such as ‘murder of the Jews,’ would have provided it with a sorely lacking moral dimension.

... multiplicity of names for the mass murder of the Jews/given to the Event (term employed by one historian) may signify a confusion as to its essence, an unease with its presence, fear ... at calling it what it really is.”6


Students will reflect/learn about

I. Reflect on meaning of Holocaust (H), an example of genocide.
*Study destructive nature of prejudice, focusing on H. as the extreme outcome of institutionalized prejudice.
Progression will be traced from unfavorable attitudes, to denial of civil rights, to incarceration & forced labor in ghettos, prisons, & concentration camps, to mass murder.
-Demonstrate understanding & knowledge of the social, political, & economic forces that led to the Holocaust
*History of the Jewish Question & origins of the “Final Solution.” Examine Jewish-Gentile relations. Study roots antisemitism. Jewish beliefs customs history experience.
*Hitler’s Nazism; Nazi rise to power; Nazi racial policies

II. Government’s implementation: ghetto camps. Victims; extermination process; perpetrators, collaborators
*Resisters; bystanders; rescuers; aftermath
-Analyze issues & implications of Holocaust: ethical dilemma carry immoral orders; value diversity; skills critical thinking

Why study Holocaust History? Can we educate?

Syllabus: Shoah and The Nazi Assault on Humanity - A Warning, ‘They let us do it’
Causes & legacies of Nazi assault on humanity - violations of human rights
May their voice never be silenced
May your voice be heard
Remember & speak up for all-inclusiveness and equal dignity & equality

1. *H. watershed event not only in 20th century;
most effective extensively documented subjects for pedagogical examination of basic moral issues

Yields critical lessons for investigation of human behavior
Addresses central tenet of education in US: examine what it means to be responsible citizen
“Holocaust not purely “Jewish event” of little concern to Gentile world, but matter of great importance to Christianity as well”
H. not only Jewish but universal tragedy
Elie Wiesel: H. crime against humanity; case study genocide. Human disaster
-Landmark of man’s faculty for evil
*H.=Assault on humanity human rights democracy; violations of human rights

2.*assist students in develop understanding of ramifications of prejudice racism stereotyping in any society
- prejudice cancer that can affect & destroy; illustrates where prejudice starts where it can lead -extreme result outcome of institutionalized prejudice & intolerance of the ‘other’ civilization thin veneer
look at assumptions abt human nature good & evil

3.*H. provides context for exploring dangers of remaining silent apathetic indifferent in face of others’ oppression. How & why National Socialism came to power & thus warn students of dire consequences of apathy lack of defense of democratic principles.

**silence indifference to suffering others or to infringement of civil rights in any society can perpetuate problems;
-frightening reminder of dangers of silence & apathy, when others oppressed; each of us bears responsibility that ‘never again’ becomes watchword for protection of powerless warning;

Attack on any minority affect all of us;
-fight against dangers of racism, anti-democratic
-largest group bystanders ; Rescuers stand up for moral values;

4.**H. not accident in history. -occurred because individuals, org. govts made choices that not only legalized discrimination but also allowed prejudice, hatred & mass murder to occur
-4 yrs planned industrialized systematic cruel efficiency legal
*Holocaust History demonstrates how modern nation can utilize its technological expertise bureaucratic infrastructure to implement destructive policies ranging from social engineering to genocide
Mass murder by lawful decree with org. skills & technical expertise efficiency in service of irrationality

5.*H helps students think abt use & abuse of power, roles & responsibilities of individuals, org & nations when confronted with civil rights violations &/or policies of genocide
Implications of a government instituting a policy of genocide against its citizens will be explored

6.*students gain insight into history social religious political economic factors that cumulatively resulted in H. gain awareness of complexity perspective on how convergence of factors can contribute to disintegration of democratic values; understand that it is responsibility of citizens in democracy to learn identify danger signals & to know when to react
**democratic institutions values not automatically sustained but need to be appreciated protected

H. fundamentally challenges foundations upon which human civilization rests
-generated a credibility crisis of major proportions in our most basic assumptions about the nature of humankind and of society, of the modern stated, and of our responsibilities as citizens of the world to speak up and act to stop the unjust suffering of innocent people everywhere

Y. Bauer - Unprecedenteness:

“... why, in order to act against the dangers of racist, anti-democratic extremism, the Holocaust was chosen to serve as the focal point of this effort. ... the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, saw and see the H., I think, in two main ways:
one, as a defining moment in European and world history, in its specificity, in the fact that here, in the midst of a civilized continent, a monster could arise that threatened a whole people with total extinction.
Two, the H. as a symbol for genocide, as such, and therefore also for mass murder, racism, hatred of foreigners, antisemitism, hatred of the other; ... Every genocide will always be very particular, and therefore very universal. Any ethnic national racial religious group can be target of genocide, any political group the target of mass murder.
... can happen to any minority group->universal meaning ... the H., the best-researched genocide, is a symbol for other disasters & enables us to approach them with much greater understanding.

But there was another realization, I believe, that went along with all this: the crimes perpetrated by National Socialism were of an unprecedented character. ... not more evil than other massacres; ... There is no gradation of suffering no way to measure pain ... . Jews, Roma, Russians, Tutsi, Ibos, Ache Indians, Armenians Kurds Croats testify continued inhumanity of man to his fellow man. no scale of victimization. But National Socialism (NS) did not just inflict horrendous suffering on many millions of people, did not only commit mass murder and genocide, but it proposed to reorganize humanity in a way that was radically different from the ways humanity had been organized before. ... NS ... originally a nationalist movement, it then tried to reorganize all of society according to race, an attempt that had never been made before; not just in one country but all over the globe
(who has right to live). Of course, the scientific basis of NS biological racism was and is very shaky. ... most scientists believe that all of humanity originates in Africa ... Yet, NS as a race theory conquered universities, and brilliant intellectuals ... adhered to this ideology which negated all of what humanity had achieved until then. As they wanted to make this ideology into a universal dogma, they tried to make a revolution unequal in human history ... . with the National Socialists, genocide became an inherent essential component of a general threat to human civilization - ... something that had no precedent. ... the unprecedentesness of the H. as an attempt to eradicate a people, all of them, every single individual of their number, ultimately everywhere in the world, by a modern industrial machinery, is based on unprecedentedness of National Socialism as a threat to all humans. ... this particular & extreme version of racism is ... alive ... . Hence the Task Force ...”7

“The Holocaust was a genocide, but of a special and unprecedented type. ... The Holocaust has become a symbol of evil in ... Western Civilization, and the awareness of that symbol seems to be spreading all over the world. A museum near Hiroshima commemorates Auschwitz ... Holocaust-related books, films ... press ... television industry presents shows ... Why? Because ... the realization is sinking in that the Holocaust says something terribly important about humanity. it is on the one hand, a genocide and must be compared with other genocides ... On the other hand, it is a unique genocide, with unprecedented -and, so far, unrepeated- characteristics. There is a third element: the Holocaust concerns one of the core groups in what used to be the Christian-Muslim area of civilization, namely the Jews, whose culture ... was ... crucial in the development of Western civilization. The Holocaust has, therefore, become the symbol for genocide, for racism, for hatred of foreigners, and of course, for antisemitism; yet the existence of rescuers on the margins provides a hope that these evils are not inevitable. ... ... impact of Holocaust growing ...

The Holocaust poses a basic problem for Christianity as well as for Judaism, hence the ... genuine, efforts of the Catholic Church and of other churches to confront the Holocaust.
As the awareness of the universal implications of the Holocaust spreads, the Holocaust has become two things: a specifically Jewish tragedy and therefore a universal problem of the first magnitude. Human beings who were Jews were murdered for one reason only: because they were Jews.

I think the planned total murder of a people was an unprecedented catastrophe in human civilization. ... ... The Holocaust can be a precedent, or it can become a warning.

I must say clearly that the Holocaust happened but it did not have to. ... True, from a certain point of view ... the annihilation of the Jews became inevitable, give Nazi ideology, the development of German society and bureaucracy, and German political and military superiority in Europe. ... But if we retreat in time from early 1941 to the beginning of the war in 1939, or before that, then the Holocaust was not inevitable.”8

(Yehuda Bauer, “Jewish historian, Academic Advisor to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research; retired professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; former Director of the International Research Institute, Yad Vashem, Israel”).

“Can we educate?

... the H., that extreme, & best researched case of genocide, turns out to be also the arena for the most amazing examples of the other side of human capability, that of self-sacrifice for others, of our ability to stand up for moral values. prevention major human-made catastrophes minimize danger. We live in world of national self-interest conflict mutual hatred. Rescuers in H. teach us we are capable of different behavior obstacles Can we prevent mutual destruction? Education Rescuers righteous few endangered their lives few most not but gives us right to teach provide role model

-stories that illustrate the great highs and lows of human nature
-Understanding the H. leads us to understanding hate
-Message H: preventing moral bankruptcy.

Course of study designed to raise contemporary issues:

-How could the Holocaust happen? What were its origins? Nature of extreme prejudice

*Why the Jews?
How did the Jews become the scapegoats par excellence for every ill of European society?
Who was responsible for it?

**Why the Holocaust sprang from German society and not in France?
What were the factors that produced National Socialism/Nazism?
*How did Hitler/regime killed M. of people?
**How on earth was it possible for educated ... members of such a highly developed European society as Germany to apply themselves so assiduously to the task of butchering? How Germans, renown for their culture, perpetrated the greatest crime?

**How could people who had created, in Central Europe, one of the greatest civilization in history commit itself to such an ideology as the Nazi one and stick to it through the most destructive war in human annals (so far) to the bitter end?

**How does ideology turn into bullets or poison gas? Psychology of propaganda.

**How did the Jews become victims? How the Final Solution Came About?
**Who were the perpetrators?
Was the Holocaust caused by a few insane political leaders, or was it the result of social forces?

What could have stopped it?
Why did Western nations do so little very late to save victims?

*What did US know & do?
Where was the spirit of Christ/Christian churches? Where was God?

Why is the Holocaust often referred to as a “crime of indifference?”

-What enabled individuals, groups, states to actively become involved in resistance while others remained passive bystanders & others sympathizers collaborators? Can it happen again?

“ ... the more we study it -the Holocaust, the more we know about it, the less comprehensible it becomes. We still seek an answer to the most important questions: Why did it happen? How could it have happened? How could it happen in an advanced, civilized modern nation? There is no easy answer to that question, as is the case with most questions about the Holocaust.
no simple answer/conclusions; avoid moral judgment

Questions highly complex
perplexing critical - historical, psychological, sociological, ethical, economic, political, moral; concept of evil analyzed with regard to motivating factors of perpetrators, rescuers, bystanders ->Interdisciplinary approach --->better understanding; no simple answer/conclusions; avoid moral judgment

The Holocaust - a case of murder

Following the lead of Holocaust historian Michael Marrus, I begin the course from the premise that the Holocaust, is in the first instance, a case of murder (mass murder state-sponsored, systematic persecution & annihilation), and that therefore the initial tasks of the investigator are to establish the murderer’s motive and opportunity. Investigation of motive takes into consideration not only the perpetrators, but involves consideration of the victims and the bystanders. (perpetrator initiated, collaborator neighbor helped, victim bystander witness consent; crime#conscience, empathy did nothing; resister minority refuse to conform; peer pressure important; altruism rescuer - inter-relation)

Who? Perpetrator collaborator. Nazi Germany government (gvt) 3rd Reich, Hitler Himmler Goering Eichman National Socialist regime & its collaborators.

Why? National Socialism dictatorship; Nazism=genetic biological racism. at its center: antisemitism; Jews anywhere most in proportion whole community. Primacy racial ideology; Ideology: racial purity & master race superiority - concept of German Aryan superiority: preservation ethnic purity; right to destroy unwanted population claimed valid policy by existing govt. kill subhuman anyone unlike Nazi=dislike of unlike, hatred of other. Ideological roots Nazi=blond blue-eyed healthy heterosexual Aryan superior=Neo-Nazi white supremacist; conformity#conscience, peer pressure; over 45 M. died in WWII started by Hitler/Germany

Whom? Victims: end ‘45: 11 and a 1/2 M. victims; Jews primary victims—6 M.; 51/2 M. other undesirable Gentiles also targeted for destruction for political, gender, racial, ethnic, national ... reasons: Gypsies, handicapped, homosexual, Black, Jehovah’s Witnesses Slavs Catholic Poles Soviet prisoners of war & political dissidents suffered under Nazi tyranny. 1 1/2 M children; while most world looked on with disinterest.

Witnesses? Bystanders: consent#conscience & empathy; indifference; apathy. The road to Auschwitz was built by hatred, but paved with indifference.

Resisters; Rescuers:
minority, #conform to peer pressure; altruism; courage valor heroism decency

Where? Germany, Europe, North Africa, Shanghai
Holo. era 1933-45 WWII
How? bureaucracy of evil. legal medicine justice. efficient shoot. ghetto, camps

Holocaust: Murder; establish murderer’s motive & opportunity: Hatred of other

How could the Holocaust have happened? How does a society get to this point?
Nature of extreme prejudice

I. Ideological Roots - Antecedents & Context
Antisemitism, Racism, Nazism

An exploration of the context within which the Holocaust occurred - an examination of: human nature and the dynamics of prejudice, events, deeds, and ideas in European history that contributed to the Holocaust, such as the history of antisemitism, racism and the development of race science in the nineteenth century, the rise of German nationalism, World War I the defeat of Germany, the failure of the democratic Weimar Republic, and the rise of Nazism. By the end of this first part of the course, students should have a better sense of the context in which the Holocaust must be understood.

Objectives. At the conclusion of this first part of the course students will be able to

1. Describe and explain the social, political, economic and cultural developments that helped create a climate in which the Holocaust could occur in Europe.
2. Discuss the historical, racial, social and religious roots of antisemitism, as well as the rise of Hitler and Nazi ideology.
3. At the conclusion of this unit students will be able to discuss the history of the “Jewish Question,” and the origins of the “Final Solution.”

1. Dynamics of Prejudice - Human Nature & Behavior

Topic: Marginalization of the “disliked” other. Exclude#include. Definitions.
Exploring human nature/behavior Dynamic of prejudice & intolerance

How group becomes the target of prejudice, discrimination, persecution and violence?
Why are some people suspicious or critical of others with different manners or dress?

Stereotypes and Prejudices - Exploring Human Nature


An examination of: the “dislike of the unlike.” Genocide is the ultimate expression of hatred & violence against a group of people. This chapter traces the steps by which a group becomes the target of prejudice, discrimination, persecution & violence. The general concepts of stereotypes, scapegoats, prejudices, & discrimination are explored in a manner which will enable students to understand behavior and to condemn such behavior which is inappropriate in a modern, pluralistic society.

Instructional Objectives - Students will learn that:

1. Stereotyping often results from, and leads to, prejudice and bigotry.

2. Unchecked prejudice and bigotry leads to discrimination, violence, and, in extreme cases, genocide.

3. Prejudice can be spread by the use of propaganda and inflamed by demagogues.

4. Language, particularly slang, is often used to dehumanize members of certain groups of people, and this dehumanization is a precursor of discrimination, isolation, and violence.


Chapter Content

Although the Holocaust and the nazi assault on humanity took place during World War II, the war was not the cause of the Holocaust. ... How could this have happened? The answers can be found by understanding how violence of this magnitude can evolve out of prejudice based on ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding about minority groups and other groups who are different from ourselves.

The purpose of this chapter is to teach that the genocide we know as the Holocaust had roots in attitudes and behavior which we see around us every day. It is only when these attitudes and behaviors are manifested in the extreme that genocide can occur. Genocide is the last step in a continuum of actions taken by those who are prejudiced.

The first step of this continuum is discrimination - treating certain groups of people differently.

The second step is isolation, such as the physical segregation of minorities in ghettos or setting up separate schools.

The third step is persecution, followed by dehumanization and violence.

*Genocide the deliberate and systematic extermination of a group of people is the ultimate expression of human hatred.


Genocide is rooted in human nature; Holocaust touches upon nuances of human behavior.
Essence of Holocaust: dislike of the unlike.
H. study cannot be grasped without knowledge of dynamics of prejudice in society:

Majority US Minority -THEM different ‘other’

Tolerance: capacity practice of recognizing & respect beliefs practice of others
Increasing diversity & divisiveness; future democracy: getting along achieving full equality

Pyramid of hate
Intolerance arose from fear misunderstanding suspicion anger ignorance of the “other” -->

Act of subtle bias: Stereotyping - jokes; rumors, accepting negative information ...


A generalized image of a person or group,

A stereotype is a generalization/generalized fixed conception about a person or group of persons which does not acknowledge individual differences and which is often prejudicial to that person or group. We develop stereotypes when we are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the information we would need to make fair judgments about people or situations. In the absence of the total picture, stereotypes in many cases allow us to fill in the blanks. Our society often innocently creates and perpetuates stereotypes, but these stereotypes often lead to unfair discrimination and persecution when the stereotype is unfavorable.

Stereotypical generalizations have their roots in experiences we have had ourselves, read about in books and magazines, seen in movies or television, or have had related to us by friends and family. ... In virtually every case, we are resorting to prejudice by ascribing characteristics about a person based on a stereotype, without knowledge of the total facts.

By stereotyping, we assume that a person or group has certain characteristics. Quite often, we have stereotypes about persons who are members of groups with which we have not had firsthand contact.

Television, books, comic strips, and movies are all abundant sources of stereotyped characters.

Stereotypes also evolve out of fear of persons from minority groups. For example, many people have the view of a person with mental illness as someone who is violence-prone. This conflicts with statistical data, which indicate that persons with mental illness tend to be no more prone to violence than the general population. Perhaps the few, but well-publicized, isolated cases of mentally ill persons going on rampages have planted the seed of this myth about these persons. This may be how some stereotypes developed in the first place - a series of isolated behaviors by a member of a group which was unfairly generalized to be viewed as a character of all members of that group.

II. PREJUDICE. Bias ---> prejudice

*Prejudice. Preconceived negative/unfavorable opinion formed against a person or group, based on a stereotype; irrational hatred of other races, creeds, religions, ethnic groups, homosexuals, poor, immigrants; learned behavior child absorb from parents.

Prejudice spread by propaganda & inflamed by demagogues.
Some prejudice has been passed down from generation to generation. Prejudice against Jews, called antisemitism, has been known for more than two thousand years.
Ethnocentrism: belief one’s own ethnic, religious, politic group superior to all others

Anthropologists, scientists who study humans and their origins, generally accept that the human species can be categorized into races based on physical and genetic makeup. For example, many, but certainly not all African-Americans have physical differences from Caucasians beyond their dark skin, such as wiry hair. Virtually all scientists accept the fact that there is no credible scientific evidence that one race is culturally or psychologically different from any other, or that one race is superior to another. Past studies which reached conclusions other than that have been found to be seriously flawed in their methodology or inherently biased.

Yet despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, there are people who maintain that their own race is superior to all others. These people, known collectively as "racists," are the most likely to engage in discrimination, persecution, and violence against those they deem to be members of "inferior" races.

In 19th century Europe, Jews were classified as an "inferior" race with specific physical and personality characteristics. Some thinkers believed these traits would disappear if Jews received political and social emancipation and could assimilate into the broader society. Others felt that these traits were genetically passed on and could not be changed. Racial theory, distorted into a pseudo-science, sanctioned negative stereotypes existing from classical and Christian antisemitism. An increasing emphasis on nationalism also highlighted the Jews as a "foreign element," which could contaminate the native stock and culture and potentially dominate the native population economically and politically. This long-standing history provided a seed-bed for the Nazi ideology and program of genocide.

Immigration Quotas Based on Racism
Before 1890, the overwhelming majority of immigrants to the United States was from northern and western Europe. They were predominantly Protestant and included many industrious farmers and skilled workers with a high rate of literacy who were easily assimilated. In the 1840s and 1850s, hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens fled their homeland for the U.S. to escape famine and discrimination. At the turn of the century, immigration shifted to a southern and eastern European population which was mainly Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Jewish. Many were impoverished, and there was a high proportion of illiteracy. Unlike the first wave of immigration which had dispersed throughout the United States, these groups settled in pockets in major cities, retaining their language and customs. They also provided a large pool of unskilled factory labor which competed with the American labor force. Concern about economic competition intertwined with concern about the illiterate poor becoming public charges.

In the early 1900s, groups were formed to place barriers to the immigration of such people. Among these were the American Protective Association in the Midwest and the Immigration Restriction League established in Boston.

Studies and reports were commissioned to prove that southern and eastern Europeans were racially inferior to northern and western Europeans. One such study, sponsored by a nine-member Immigration Commission appointed by the U.S. government in 1907, culminated in a 42-volume report to support this racist notion. Immigration policies were influenced by these reports and studies, and also contributed to the growing isolationist viewpoint of U.S. government policymakers.

The Quota Act of 1921 put the first numerical restrictions on European immigration, followed by the Immigration Acts of 1924 and 1929. The total number of immigrants permitted each year was cut by over 80% from the average immigration numbers at the turn of the century and the distribution was based on the ethnic origins of the U.S. Population in 1920. As a result, 83,575 places out of a total 153,774 were assigned to Great Britain and Ireland which provided relatively few applicants. On the other hand, countries with more potential immigrants had smaller quotas: Germany, about 26,000; Poland, 6,000; Italy, 5,500; France, 3,000; Rumania, 300. Arthur D. Morse, in his volume, While Six Million Died wrote that "Later these impersonal figures would doom Rumanian, Polish, and French Jews seeking sanctuary while the English and Irish quotas lay unused." These figures were unchanged until the Administration of Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.

*bigotry - Intolerance for others, minority groups ‘different’ irrational hatred
Bigots are followers, seek approval of peer, legitimize prejudice=institutionalized prejudice=communal acceptance of intolerance, characterized by hostility, consensus victim invested with flaws that form negative picture oversimplification
Economy strong->bias subdued; economic hardship prejudice reappear

Act of prejudice & bigotry - Tragic consequences of prejudice & hate: scapegoating;; ridicule; social avoidance; de-humanization.

*Scapegoat. A person or group who is unfairly blamed for the mistakes, crimes or failures of others; promoted through the use of propaganda. Scapegoating is the practice of blaming an individual or group for a real or perceived failure of others.

The origin of the term comes from the Bible, specifically Leviticus, in which God gives Moses instruction for a ritual in which a high priest would place his hand upon a goat's head and transfer the sins of the community to the goat, which was then released into the desert.

It is not uncommon to blame others for our own mistakes, and especially to affix blame on those who are unable or unwilling to defend themselves against the charges. Minorities are often the targets of scapegoating. First, minorities are often isolated within society and are thus an easy target. Those in the majority are more easily convinced about the negative characteristics of a minority with which they have no direct contact. Violence, persecution, and genocide directed against minorities often occur when a minority group is being blamed for some social ill. Unemployment, inflation, food shortages, the plague, and crime in the streets are all examples of ills which have been blamed on minority groups.
Authoritarian place guilt blame failure on targeted minority=scapegoat.

Unchecked prejudice bigotry --> DISCRIMINATION


Acts of discrimination: harassment; employment discrimination; housing discrimination; educational discrimination; social exclusion.

When we judge people and groups based on our prejudices & stereotypes and treat them differently, we are engaging in discrimination. This discrimination can take many forms. We may create subtle or overt pressures which will discourage persons of certain minority groups from living in a neighborhood. Women & minorities have been victimized by discrimination in employment, education, & social services. We may shy away from people with a history of mental illness because we are afraid they may harm us. Women & minorities are often excluded from high echelon positions in the business world. Many clubs have restrictive membership policies which do not permit Jews, African-Americans, women, & others to join.

Language slang used -Slur/name calling -ridicule -social avoidance to dehumanize members of groups (grp) & dehumanization is precursor of discrimination isolation & violence.
Strategies majority to isolate minority: ghetto reservation

When suffering inflame prejudice into violence; if govt religious leaders encourage that minority responsible for their ills -> passion bloodshed plunder pogrom -when prejudice progress in brutality result in atrocity by group -lynch


Acts of violence: assault; terrorism; desecration; vandalism; threats
Acts of extreme violence: murder; rape; arson; genocide.

Sense of solidarity give individual license to commit crime they would never perform alone
collective guilt diffused among perpetrators; invokes justification. outrages KKK after civil war=as south. patriots in crusade; criminality by consent.

Response oppressed people: withdraw from majority; self=contained group; insulate; resent acculturation; own dialect differences cloth hairstyle
Victims of prejudice affected=lose personal freedom, sense wholeness, self-respect; need to fit with majority, name changed; pride in one’s heritage traded for conformity

Steps to organized genocide:

I. Discrimination - difference; denial of justice: sexism, housing, employment, education racial profiling; conformity, peer pressure
II. Isolation ghetto reservation ->humiliation
III. Persecution dehumanization -> violence mass execution genocide last step

Minority Persecution and Genocide

Just as a school bully can assert his power over a weaker student by pure physical intimidation, a minority group may be victimized by a more powerful majority which is insensitive to the needs and aspirations of that minority. Minority groups may be subjected to dehumanization experiences made to feel powerless by being subjected to degrading and humiliating experiences based on prejudice. Examples in history have been:

* African-Americans being forced to ride in the back of the bus

* German Jews being required to wear a yellow "Star of David"

* minorities being referred to by pejorative slang names (if appropriate, the teacher may
wish to discuss racial or ethnic epithets relevant to their students' community or town)

* minorities being the subject of jokes which poke fun at the target's race, religion, or
ethnic origin, and which rely on stereotypes

* Japanese-Americans being isolated in camps during World War II

* Native Americans having their land confiscated in violation of treaties, being the victims
of government-sponsored massacres, and being placed on reservations.

Minorities have also been the victims of violence based on their minority status. Minority institutions, such as places of worship, schools, and cemeteries, have been the target of vandalism, arson, and desecration. African-Americans were victims of lynching and whippings in the South and other parts of the United States as well. In Eastern Europe, random violence directed at Jews, called pogroms, resulted in the massacre of thousands. Today, there are groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the White Knights, the Order, the Posse Comitatus, and neo-Nazi Skinheads, which openly condone discrimination and advocate against certain minorities as part of their doctrines.

Genocide, the destruction of a people, is the most extreme form of persecution. During World War II, Hitler's dream of destroying Jewry almost came to fruition. Through the use of propaganda, he successfully convinced millions of followers that the Jews were to blame for Germany's troubles, including its humiliation during World War I, and its economic chaos. Six million Jews were annihilated.

The Armenian genocide of the early 20th century and the murder of millions of Cambodians by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge are other examples of genocide in the 20th century.

Demagogues and Propaganda

... It is usually the case, however, that the passions of hatred against minorities by members of the majority are stirred up by charismatic leaders who exploit latent hatreds for their own political ends. These leaders are called "demagogues," and they depend upon propaganda and disinformation to achieve their ends.

Many demagogues have been successful because people want to believe that there is a simple cause of their problems. Through the use of propaganda techniques, persuasive arguments are made that one group or another is to blame for all of our problems, and these problems would go away were it not for those (fill in the target minority). As a population becomes educated, it becomes less easy to sway with propaganda. In a free society where access to information is not restricted, it becomes even more difficult.

Positive Responses to Prejudice and Stereotypes

Understanding the nature of prejudice, scapegoating, stereotypes, and discrimination is the first step in combating these practices. All of us have prejudices about members of groups different from ourselves. We should, however, recognize that we are not acting fairly if we treat people differently because of these stereotypes and prejudices. Each one of us deserves to be considered a unique human being.

All of us face peer pressure when confronted with a joke which puts down a certain minority. It takes courage to raise objections to these jokes and pejorative names and to actively fight the prejudice and bigotry which they foster. It is important to stand up against injustice, and fight the discrimination, stereotypes, and scapegoating which have served as the precursors to persecution, violence, and genocide.


*Antisemitism - Coined by Wilhelm Marr, an anti-Jewish German journalist in 1879, was used to mean "opposition to Jews." Today it refers to prejudice against Jews.

*Bigotry - intolerance for the beliefs of others, particularly those of minority groups.

Demagogue - A person who gains power through impassioned public appeals to the emotions and prejudices of a group by speaking or writing.

*Ethnocentrism - The belief that one's own ethnic, religious, or political group is superior to all others.

*Genocide - (genos=people, race, kind; cide=murder) The use of deliberate, systematic measures (as killing, bodily or mental injury, unlivable conditions, prevention of births, forcible transfer of children of the group to another group) calculated to bring about the destruction of a racial, political or cultural group or to destroy the language, religion or culture of a group.

*Ghetto - A section of a city in which Jews were required to live surrounded by walls; has been adopted to include sections or cities predominantly inhabited by minority groups which may have socio-economic rather than physical barriers.

*Holocaust/Shoah - Literally, "fire that causes destruction," has been used to designate the destruction of six million Jews by the Nazis & their accomplices during World War II.

Persecution - The oppression and/or harassment of people based on their race, religion, color, national origin, or other distinguishing characteristic.

- An organized, and often government-sponsored or condoned massacre of Jews.

*Prejudice - Preconceived negative/unfavorable opinion formed against a person or group based on a stereotype; irrational hatred of other races, creeds, religions, ethnic groups, homosexuals, poor, immigrants; learned behavior child absorb from parents.

Propaganda - Information which is used to promote a cause or to injure or enhance the reputation of a group, individual, or position, and which may either not be factual, may "bend" the facts, or does not tell the entire story, in order to suit the purposes of the author.

*Racism - A belief that one race is superior to another.

*Scapegoat - A person or group who is unfairly blamed for the mistakes or failures of others, promoted through the use of propaganda.

Skinhead - A member of a youth cult group, whose members shave their heads, and whose activities in some cases have taken the form of violence and terror directed against African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Asians, homosexuals, and other minorities.

*Stereotype - A generalized image of a person or group, which does not acknowledge individual differences and which is often prejudicial to that person or group.

Copyright Fall 1999; Fall 2003 Edith Shaked
Credit/Source: The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers.


2 Yad Vashem, About the Holocaust - Shoah.

3 Jack Fischel, The Holocaust, 1998, pps. vii-viii

4 Michael R. Marrus, The Holocaust in History, 1987


6 Omer Bartov, Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Reinterpretations of National Socialism, in The Holocaust and History - The Knowon, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined; eds: Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck; published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; 1998

7 Professor Y. Bauer’s presentation to the Amsterdam Conference on Remembrance, May 2001

8 Y. Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, 2001